First Thursdays, the JP Centre/South-sponsored monthly celebrations of the arts, are officially scheduled to resume next month with the return of warmer weather in May. Yet even the calendar could not repress the community's creative spirit Thursday night on South Street. In what has now become a year-round, monthly tradition, the neighborhood was buzzing with activity and art as four venues held April First Thursday opening art receptions.
Opening night at Monumental Cupcakes at JP Art Market featured the work of JP photographer Maxama Baudissin. The well-travelled artist’s work documents her voyages to the capitals of Europe but there’s not an Eiffel Tower or Brandenburg Gate to be found. Many of her politically charged images capture civil unrest such as massive protests against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and a strike at a Paris McDonald's. As her artist’s statement explains, “Activism on the Left is so much more prevalent” in Europe. “It could provide parallel inspiration to those of us in the New World who wonder what we can do to change.” One of the few color photos in the show, Baudissin's "Kitchen View" beautifully captures a quieter moment.
The workers of the world do indeed unite just down the block at The Aviary where the new gallery's “Living the Dream” exhibit brings together artwork created by employees at many neighborhood businesses. “Droplet Series” is an assemblage by Boomerangs’ Emma Rhodes that recycles industrial scrap, safety pins and weathered wood. The patinaed piece is made to shine with the careful placement of a few earrings. Bridie Johnson, who works at Goddard House, shows a boldly colored and exuberant painting called “Three Fish.” An untitled photo by Salmagundi’s Amanda McKeever juxtaposes the patterns of a little girl’s stockings with a brightly painted bench. Employees from many other JP businesses are represented in the “Living the Dream” show including Brendan Behan Pub, City Feed, Polka Dog, Fiore’s, and others.
The Hallway Gallery is presenting a group show of five artists. Deniz-Ozan-George’s large scale abstract paintings are inspired by natural forces such as electricity and particle physics. The deceptively beautiful, sky-like images of Renee Brown’s blue and white prints document her weight loss. They are actually redacted pictures of the folds of skin left after she shed many pounds.
Tara Merenda Nelson’s “Catharsis” is a cinematic installation consisting of a 16mm projector and a strobe that shot flashing beams of light into the night outside the gallery. For maximum impact, explained the artist, who seemed to enjoying playing with her audience's perception, viewers should sit between the projector and the strobe, close their eyes, and they will then experience a flickering series of images on their eyelids. (Nelson and husband, Gordon, presented one evening of 16mm & Super 8 films on Friday and plan another for April 26 at The Hallway.)
The creative spark was also burning last night at realtors McCormack & Scanlan. Joseph Fallon and Edana Spicker curated an exhibit there by Roxbury women artists. Photographer Maddu Huacuja's large-scale images of India are bright and beautiful. Jeweler Janeen St. Louis displayed her elegant, handmade creations.
“We’re using art to put a positive light on Roxbury,” said Fallon. “We want to educate people about this wonderful neighborhood,” added Spicker.
This quartet of diverse and delightful shows will be on view south of the Monument (SoMo:) at Monumental Cupcakes at JP Art Market, The Aviary, The Hallway, and McCormack & Scanlan, through the month of April.